The Kinect 2 security risk?

What are the personal security implications of having a Kinect 2 in your home?

I so wish it wasn’t true but it is.

We are at the point where we have to consider issues like entertainment and national security. Who would have ever guessed?

My question today boys and girls is about Microsoft’s Xbox and second generation Kinect camera aka the Kinect 2. In light of  all the recent NSA revelations and the all encompassing powers of the various governments in this world, would you feel comfortable with a very powerful and sensitive camera in your home?

I started to think about this as I was talking to my buddies the other day and the topic came up. Now this is just anecdotal but I was pretty take aback by how many of them have decided to pass on getting the Kinect 2 because of the security implications. As always, once my interested was piqued, I decided to explore a little more.

A simple search for the capabilities of the Kinect 2 camera revealed the following:

  • It has a radically expanded field of view and a new Infrared camera that enables it to see (you) in the dark.
  • It has advanced 3d geometry so it can tell a lot about your posture and body positioning.
  • It has Real Motion
 technology that has radically enhanced gesture detection. Even the very smallest movements of your body can be detected.
  • It has Real Voice technology and comes with not just one good microphone but a multi-microphone array.
  • It has advanced noise isolation technology so it can single out the appropriate voices even in a crowded room.

Now that sounds like some pretty sophisticated hardware and on one hand, you have to give props and kudos to the good folks at Microsoft R&D Labs. They’ve come up with some pretty crazy stuff.

On the other hand, it also sounds like a perfectly designed spy device.

Check out these video that shows a demo of some of the new technology present in the Kinect 2.

There’s No doubt that this camera is the most sophisticated home gaming accessory on the market today. There’s also no dispute that for those who choose to buy the Xbox One, games will be more engaging and “real” and with time, developers will start to create some really amazing stuff for it.

On the other hand, isn’t having such a device in your home a security risk?

Once this is in the home, after a while, most people won’t really care if the camera is off and on. If Microsoft is able to integrate the software with cable and the internet, a scenario where it will always be on is not unreasonable.

So now you’ll have a powerful eye in your living room that can record what you say and record what you do.

No matter what any vendor says, once a device like this exists, there will be hacks for it. Some will be patched and some won’t. Then there are governments.

It’s not sci-fi to imagine that at some point, both the Microsoft and Sony cameras can be controlled (if only briefly) by Government Agencies if need be. A few years ago that would have sounded bizarre or like something from a Warner Bros movie – today it’s all too possible.

Now most people (in America) really don’t care too much about surveillance. There’s a lackadaisical “I have nothing to hide/I’m an open book” kind of mentality that has become pretty pervasive especially among younger people.

In light of that, I’m pretty curious to hear back from you guys and girls.

The questions:

  1. Do you plan to buy an Xbox One or PS4 with a camera?
  2. Are you at all concerned by the power of these cameras and the potential for abuse by third parties?

Use the comments below and let me know..

  • William Mckinson

    Yeah dude, I’m not putting that in my house. F*ck that.

    I have enough issues.

  • stw picknell

    1. i will most probably buy xbox one, but after 1-2 year after release to see how this worked out.
    2. At least for xbox one i think there is not much space to abuse the device with 3rd party software. the only way is that microsoft will know about it.

  • g-style

    i think i will buy an xbox one with the kinect 2. As it will be an optionnal device, you can always unplug it, and i am curious about what you can do, event testing if i can hack it.

  • Richard

    Initially I was not going to purchase an XBOX1 but the more I learn I am leaning toward getting a day one unit. The technology is impressive and really forward looking. I have very little concern about security. I would actually like to be able to use it as an in home security device.

  • Superade

    I don’t know why everyone’s acting so damn paranoid, unless there’s a lot of folks growing copious amounts of weed in their living rooms or other criminal activities.

    • CompUser

      Really? You know those incandescent light bulbs we all have in our homes? They’re about to become illegal (they’re already getting to be hard to find), and technically it will be criminal activity to continue using them. Yes, that’s an extreme example, and I’m sure no one will ever be fined or arrested for using them, but you never know what the government will deem to be criminal activity in the future. People just need to pay attention to what’s happening. It’s not being paranoid.

      • Superade

        it is paranoia by definition if you think they are out to get you. Careful, don’t leave your house ever again in case you get spotted on cctv.

        • CompUser

          This comment has been completely edited from the original content because I got a little off track.

          No, this isn’t about being paranoid. It’s about being able to see what electronic gadgetry like this can be exploited to do, what it has already been exploited to do, and not wanting to lose what privacy we have left. Did you know that Microsoft actually said the purpose of Kinect’s always-on, always-connected feature is to watch and listen to us, to learn our habits, and our likes and dislikes, so they can sell that information to advertisers? Of course it would only be as a convenience to us, though, because then advertisers would be able to bombard us with “targeted” advertisements. Isn’t that great? Did you know that all that information they gather would never go away, and that it’s already being subpoenad by courts to prosecute people? Of course, Microsoft has maybe seen the light and has announced that the Kinect won’t be required to play XBox games after all, and that people will be able to disconnect it if desired. But maybe we should be a little paranoid.

  • garak0410

    My problem, is what if how I live my life becomes “illegal” to the government and they use devices like this to make sure I adhere to the “party.”

  • Rodney Longoria

    I’m not so much into gaming these days, but with the TV, movies, music and Skype environment at the ready, I’ll probably get one. But I’ll wait a year for them to work out some of the bugs first like @stw picknell.

    It’s a scary world out there these days, like that story of the baby monitor being hacked. OMG! The hackers are what sets me on edge — never mind the government snooping around too. Me? I’ll just put a framed photo of Bill Gates directly in front of the Kinect 2 camera until I need it. Or, Ronald Reagan perhaps. LOL!

    For sure, it would be disconnected when my lady is around. For more reasons than the obvious. Hah! But what can I say? I’m a techno geek at heart so of course I’m going to buy one. 🙂

  • Charles V Brown Jr

    Microsoft already has a back door to every Internet connected Windows device thru their Online update technology. Overtly, they can access everything on our devices each time an update is installed. It is naive to believe they can’t (or don’t ) covertly access our devices under the guise of National Security using the same “update” front/back doors.

    To paraphrase Microsoft’s own words, Kinect 2.0 just adds “eyes & ears” to the open access we have already agreed to give Microsoft.

    Charles.

  • CompUser

    I’m not into gaming, but my 17-year old son is. He doesn’t plan to buy an Xbox One because he’s moving more to PC gaming and hasn’t used his Xbox 360 (which doesn’t have a Kinect) in a long time.
    I do wish, however, that people would be more concerned at the rapid rate that we’re losing our privacy. We’re almost to the point that there is no such thing anymore, since everything is becoming internet connected and/or trackable. Our cell phones are constantly being tracked via GPS; our cars are getting government mandated black boxes which will track everywhere we go; we have internet connected smart TVs that track our viewing habits (not to mention services like Netflix); our appliances are becoming internet connected; and now there’s even a company that has developed an internet connected, smart light bulb. On second thought, maybe it’s too late anyway. We’ve already given our privacy away for the possibility of that little bit of convenience.

  • Mike Greenway

    Onuora AmobiI, I believe you have every reason to be paranoid but you’re singling out Microsoft and Xbox one unfairly. How many years have all venders had cameras/microphones on our laptops and PCs? Is you cell phone really all the way off? (we don’t take the batteries out) Isn’t google following your every move on the net and emails? won’t people just be so used to wearing google glass that they leave it on when you get home?

    Most people (in America) understand that if the NSA (or the Chinese, etc.) what to look into your activities they will, regardless of a game camera. But why would “they” pay an agent to look at my video feed? To see just how I set when I watch Star Trek or How I hold my control in an awesome corner playing Dirt 4?

    If I were a criminal American I’d be smart enough to leave the game camera (Sony, Xbox, etc.) on all the time and act legally in front of it, while doing the plans to take the US Mint in the bedroom.

    I think the point you are missing is that the US government, including the NSA is on my side.

    • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

      LOL calm down Mike it was just a question.

      Besides I threw Sony’s PS4 into the question as well. Your points are well take about the alternative forms of surveillance.

      Thanks for the comment.

  • 1stkorean

    Onuora…You know where I live and how this could present a serious problem. Thank you for bringing this to light, and with your permission would like to pass this around to some friends here in Seoul.
    As always a dedicated reader of your site, present, past and future.

    • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

      Thanks Korean!

      You rock!

  • Paul Kolarz

    I really think that, like you stated, the “lackadaisical” approach is toooo passive. The government has no place in our homes, they already infringe on our rights enough as Americans. I vote NO. I think they should give that idea/technology to NASA or at the very least make it HACK PROOF…lol if that’s even possible BUT, you’ll never see that technology in my home!